Once the preserve of large corporates with big budgets and specialized staff, tools for running projects of all shapes and sizes are now widely available. Whether you're an individual or small business looking to keep track of a few projects, a multi-billion dollar company with a project portfolio to match, or anything in between, it's now possible to find cloud-based project management tools designed with you in mind.
Many have free plans with limited features to get you started, and nearly all are based around a monthly subscription model. After that, there are almost as many pricing options as there are different features, but most organizations will be able to find a tool that fits within their budget.
We've tracked down the best project management tools available on the market today, no matter the size of your team, project, or bank balance.
Best for Getting Started: Trello
Based around the kanban card-based management system, Trello's simple interface and generous free tier makes it the ideal place for individuals and small teams to get started with basic project management.
Rather than traditional tools designed for managing resources and tracking progress towards a specific end date, kanban-based apps like Trello are more free-form and flexible.
You can manage both individual projects and ongoing workflows equally well, and the board and card metaphors are easy to understand. There's plenty of power under the hood, with cards able to include images and attached files, hyperlinks, custom dropdowns, due dates, and plenty more.
Once you're finished with a particular card or an entire board, it can be archived to hide it from daily view while still being accessible if needed in the future.
The basic free tier includes unlimited users, boards, and cards, but has file size restrictions and just one "Power-Up" (i.e., integration with other services) per board. Paid plans start at $9.99 per month, with fewer or no limitations.
There's very limited reporting built into Trello, and although third-party extensions add more options, you'll likely still need to look elsewhere if detailed reports are a major requirement. For everyone else, however, Trello is a great place to start with project management. It's available on the Web, mobile, and desktop.
Best for Speedy Setup: Wrike
If Trello's approach seems a bit limited, but you don't have hours to devote to learning and setting up a complex project management tool, it's time to check out Wrike.
Standard project management features like Gantt charts, useful dashboards, and a comprehensive reporting suite are built in, and getting up and running on a small- to medium-sized project can be done quickly without learning all the in's and out's of a new, complicated system.
A time tracking tool is built in, available to both the individual working on a particular task and whoever is managing the project as a whole. Like those found in other project management tools, it's not a replacement for a dedicated time tracking system but easily handles most basic requirements.
The interface is functional, and while it could do with a bit of a visual refresh, is fine for the job. The free plan is generous with the number of projects you can create — it's unlimited — but has restrictions on the number of users and available features.
Paid plans are a bit more expensive than some of the competition, starting around $9.80/month per user, but open up all of the software's options. Wrike is available on the Web, along with iOS and Android app versions.
Best for Collaboration: Basecamp
A veteran of the project management world, Basecamp has been around for over a decade and has built a large, loyal customer base during that time.
The software makes much of its ability to replace several other paid monthly services, from Slack to Dropbox. While it's not always a complete replacement, the software does take many of the features of those tools and rolls them all into one system. Scheduling and calendars, real-time chat, private messaging, file storage, and more are included.
An uncluttered interface and powerful search tools make it straightforward to find the task, image, or message you're after, and a strong reporting suite lets you go as wide or deep as required.
Working with clients is handled well, with e-mail integration and the ability to share individual tasks and messages with people outside the organization. Notifications can be customized to your requirements, including shutting them off outside office hours.
Basecamp's fixed $99/month pricing makes it an appealing option for larger organizations, but small teams may find better value elsewhere. There's no free plan, but the length of the 30-day trial is more generous than most. Web, desktop, and mobile versions are available.
Best Value: Zoho Projects
Part of a wide suite of productivity tools from the same company, Zoho Projects has nearly all the standard features you'd expect from a project management app, at a particularly affordable price.
Tasks are viewable in either Kanban or more traditional styles, with dependencies able to be set between each task. Tools like issue and workflow management, Gantt charts, and customized reporting mean the tool can handle even relatively complex project requirements. There's also strong integration with other services, both Zoho's own suite of apps, and those from major players like Google and Microsoft.
Basic time tracking is built in, and although it doesn't replace a dedicated tracking tool, there are enough features included to make it useful. Contacting other project team members can be done via the inbuilt chat app, which saves jumping out to external tools like e-mail or Slack.
The free tier is limited to three users, with just 10MB of storage and two projects. It's sufficient for small projects or getting a feel for the software, however, and all of the paid plans are available on a 10-day trial. Other plans which allow for more more users, more projects, and more storage start range from $3 per user to $6 per user. Both Web and mobile versions of Zoho Projects are available.
Best Features: LiquidPlanner
LiquidPlanner is one of those pieces of software that tries to be many things to many people, and unlike most others with such grand ambitions, it generally succeeds.
As well as being a powerful way of running traditional projects, with all the features you'd expect, LiquidPlanner performs equally well as a helpdesk-style issue tracker and general resource management tool.
Strong reporting is built in, along with integration with major cloud storage providers. There's also Zapier support, so you can build your own automated connections with other business tools as needed.
One-off pieces of work can be assigned to any user or group, and the impact of that extra work on the people performing it is automatically taken into account when estimating project deliverables.
With extra features comes extra complexity, of course, and while LiquidPlanner does a good job of explaining some of its trickier aspects and then getting out of the way, it still requires a greater time investment to set up, learn, and master than many of its competitors. For that reason — not to mention the cost — it's better suited to larger teams and organizations than small, ad-hoc groups.
LiquidPlanner doesn't offer a free tier, although you can trial various plans for two weeks. Plans start at $45/month per user, with a minimum of five users, and go up from there.
Best for Big Projects: Microsoft Project
Microsoft Project has been around for over 30 years in one form or another, and it's still the preferred tool of many experienced project managers. With its higher pricing and steep learning curve, it's very much aimed at those responsible for very large, complex projects, who have the expertise, time, and budget to get the most out of this comprehensive tool.
Project looks and feels like other Microsoft Office apps, but with few tutorials or hints, it can be daunting for newcomers to the project management space. Trained professionals, however, will appreciate the extremely granular detail available for each task and resource, whether that resource is a specific person, role, physical material, or something else.
Reporting is similarly powerful, with both pre-built and customizable reports that can be quickly exported to Microsoft Powerpoint for those inevitable management summaries. Integration with non-Microsoft tools is limited, however.
MS Project can be tacked onto an existing Office 365 subscription, at a couple of different price points, or purchased as a one-off piece of software to be installed on a single computer. Features differ between versions, but subscription prices for the professional start at $30/month per user.
Best for Powerful Simplicity: Teamwork Projects
If you've ever been daunted by the sheer complexity of using a fully-fledged project management system, it's well worth taking a look at Teamwork Projects. Despite its full feature set, the app's interface is straightforward and easy to use, doing a good job of surfacing useful information without throwing endless lists and complex charts at its users.
Tasks are viewable as kanban boards or traditional lists, and the sensible menu options help avoid the need to dig through multiple screens to find the detail you need.
As with many other similar tools, Teamwork Projects lets you automate various actions, both within the app itself and using outside tools and services. These sort of integrations can be a real time saver, although you'll need to devote some effort to the initial setup.
The company offers several pricing options, from the limited free tier that only permits two projects and has limited storage space, through to a high-end enterprise version. Most smaller teams will get by on the $10/month plan for 5 users, since it includes unlimited users and 100GB of storage space, with extra users costing $10/month each. Mobile apps are available for iOS and Android, along with the standard Web view.
What Are Project Management Software Tools?
Project management software tools enable teams, small businesses, and individuals to keep track of projects in all their stages. These software tools can be used to work collaboratively and remotely on a project, add notes and deadlines, track progress, and make updates. Some software tools include search functions and email integration as well as organizational tips.
Who Uses Project Management Software Tools?
Project management software tools are used by:
- Work teams
- Small business owners
- Individuals managing multiple projects
- Remote workers
- Sales teams
- Contractors and construction workers
How Much Do Project Management Software Tools Cost?
Project management software tools vary from basic versions to more complex versions with built-in integration and search functions. There are free versions and paid versions, and some software tools offer monthly paid subscriptions. Expect to pay from $10 to $99 per month depending on how many users you have and what specific features you need.
Are Project Management Software Tools Worth the Cost?
Project management tools can be especially helpful in a team or remote work setting. They let multiple people work together in one place and collaborate, make notes, and meet deadlines. If you’re just getting started and want to try out the software, it’s a good idea to try a free version. However, if you’re a large company or have multiple team members, it’s typically worth the cost to pay for project management software and get the job done.
How We Chose the Best Project Management Software Tools
We researched and selected the best project management software tools based on the features they offer, how they can be used by multiple users, and their device capabilities, functions, and prices, among other considerations.